The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 375 pages
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.
Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.
Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.
Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.
I have seen The Maze Runner in bookstores and blogs for a while now, but I never got around to picking it up because I wasn’t very enticed to get it. I honestly thought the summary was kind of bleak, and that’s already coming from me who likes dystopia. I would not have bumped this book up in my TBR if it wasn’t for my friend Ace, who gave me his paperback copy after upgrading his to hardbound and if he didn’t post a glowing review of the book with special mention to me. How can I not read it, right? (And this means I am an easily swayed person :p )
Most of The Maze Runner‘s strengths lie in its pace and plotting. This is the type of book that will keep you guessing and will keep you on your literary feet. The world of the Glade and the maze that they need to stolve added to the creepiness factor of the book, with the closing doors and the scary half-machine, half-something Grievers, and the community that the boys have created inside the Glade to keep them going. The amount of detail written about the Glade, the boys’ dialect and their own “government” and social designations made it very believable, and at the back of my mind, I wondered if this mirrored the world outside of the Glade, or if there was even a world outside at all. The author levels it up with the book’s pacing, and he did a very, very good job in keeping the readers in the dark even all the way up to the end. I was kept at the edge of my seat for most of the book. Even if answers were given, other questions come up, and in the end (which was a total cliffhanger, by the way), there were more questions than answers, leading readers wanting to pick up the next book immediately.
But with all those strengths, I think what didn’t really work for me in The Maze Runner was the characters. The Maze Runner is reminiscent of The Knife of Never Letting Go in terms of world building, but the latter had characters on its side. I found Thomas a bit Gary Stu-ish, with his messianic role in the story. Sure, it was his story, but it was just kind of hard to believe that the other boys inside the Glade never figured out the things that Thomas figured out in his stay there, especially if they were supposed to be smart. Teresa, the only girl, felt more like a distraction than an important part of the story. I couldn’t quite figure her out, as well as her relationship with Thomas — is there a romantic angle here? What is her use in the story except be a girl and talk to Thomas and be cuddly with him? I’m not quite sure I got it. I did like the other characters though, particularly Newt, Minho and Chuck, and they provided a good variety and even some comic relief with the bleak atmosphere of the book.
I must warn readers, though, that this is a very talky book — most of the exposition is done by telling, not showing, so this may be an issue for other people who like descriptions more than dialogue. Despite that and the slight falter in the main characters, I think The Maze Runner is still a good book. Its tight plot, good pacing and mysteries definitely makes this book deserving of its popularity among the dystopian ranks. I will definitely pick up its sequel, The Scorch Trials, to know what happens next…but I will not pick it up anytime soon, because frankly, the end of The Scorch Trials excerpt in my paperback copy really freaked me out. :-s
My copy: paperback, from Ace
Cover image & Blurb: Goodreads